In 2004, the Green Foundation launched a major campaign to promote the use of foxtail millet in the region, citing the high nutrient value of the crop. The campaign began with a single farmer. Shantamma was distressed that her village of Kanavemadhapura, situated in the hilly regions of Anekal Taluk, Bangalore Rural District, had stopped cultivating navane. She recalled that navane had served as emergency food during shortages and was extremely valuable in times of drought. Foxtail millet is a short duration crop and very resistant to pests, disease and drought. Rich in iron and calcium, it provides a nutritious food for people and valuable fodder for animals. The grain is ground into flour or cooked and eaten like rice or in puddings. Navane is considered to be an ideal food for people suffering from diabetes and gastric problems. In the Himalayas, it is used to treat chickenpox.
Determined to revive the valuable food security crop, Shantamma communicated her concern to the Green Foundation, which agreed to help. People from nearby villages pitched in and eventually a handful of seeds were collected from a farmer’s field. With the help of the Green Foundation’s research team, the Self-Help Group, a women’s organization that includes Shantamma among its members, prepared a small demonstration plot for the millets.
Shantamma’s enthusiasm and the Green Foundation’s efforts to promote foxtail millet paid off as neighbouring farmers began to wake up to the crop’s value. Today, navane is grown widely and marketed throughout the district. A series of community genebanks have been established to ensure that foxtail millet will be around to help people through hard times for years to come.
Article by Vanaja Ramprasad, Green Foundation